Thursday, April 15, 2004

Revised 3:10 pm, April 16, 2004

Well, boys and girls, we predicted yesterday that Palatine Township Republican Committeeman Skoien was the likely winner in his battle with incumbent Maureen Murphy for Cook County GOP chair, and he won pretty handily, 77,000 weighted votes to 49,000 votes, that is 61% to 39%.

When Gary Skoien won the first battle over proxy votes, it was clear he had the votes to win, and he did win, with the whole affair taking four hours, if you count start-up and wind down. Capitol Fax’s Rich Miller was not too put out by the Rs keeping him out on a school night, along with reporters/columnists Pearson, McQueary and Krol [sounds like a law firm], as the Loop Hotel had booz, albeit not free. What can I say, it was Rs running this event-- they know there is no such thing as a free lunch or a free drink. On the other hand, the Ds know that where there is a will, there is a way—to have the taxpayers pay for the booz-- sort of a free drink, after all. [Clarifying the record, as to booz, I am guessing Rich Miller might have had some, don't know about Pearson and McQueary, and Krol informs me it was strictly Diet Pepsi. Just trying to inject a little "People stuff," into the dry political reporting. I didn't mean to imply any breach of journalistic or corporate rules.]

And, along with the booz, Nancy Kimme, Judy Baar Topinka’s Treasurer Chief of Staff, was there at the bar to entertain, reading rather theatrically to the press and others the wireless messages from her boss, GOP State Chair and Illinois Treasurer [who was inside the room where the deliberations/vote was occurring], that relayed a blow by blow of what was going on in the room. The event was supposedly closed to anyone who was not a committeeman. Riverside Township Committeewoman Topinka [1903 votes] complained about the “Thugs,” who were providing security at the door—they apparently were designated as Sergeants at arms. Anyway, to some extent, the Judy Baar-Nancy Kimme technology link trumped the closed room policy—giving a little transparency and a lot of amusement to the press.

I suppose Maureen wasn’t too shocked by her loss (or at least she had a Plan B), as she handed out a previously prepared concession statement, after the vote, that trumpeted her achievements,. Committeewoman Topinka, perhaps seeking to be a gracious winner—having been heavily aligned with Skoien (and Peraica, who laid the foundation for Skoien)—told Maureen Murphy, after the event was over, what a good meeting/election Maureen ran. Maureen was having none of it and shot back how shamefully some people were treated by the floor votes that blocked their votes, etc. Topinka beat a hasty retreat- so much, she thought no doubt, for being a gracious winner. Where is my accordion, she seemed to be asking.

As to Skoien, he does sound like a uniter, not a divider, and he might be able to put together something along those lines, if he stays true to his words, below, from a post game videotaped interview with, “Public Affairs.” Indeed, this was the first videotaped interview and maybe the first substantive interview with Skoien—that took place after Skoien was elected Cook County GOP Chair:

Jeff Berkowitz: Now, people say this is a [U. S. Senate] race between Barack Obama, someone who is clearly a liberal and Jack Ryan, who is clearly a conservative. Do you agree?

Gary Skoien: I think it is a classic race between a conservative [Jack Ryan] and a liberal [Barack Obama]. And, I think a liberal [Obama] who would be one of the most liberal members of the United States Senate. So, I don’t think it is where …the people are in Illinois, and that is why I am so enthusiastic about Jack [Ryan].

Berkowitz: Now, you yourself are described as an ally [of], and you worked with Jim Thompson, who is often viewed as a moderate in the Illinois Republican party. Does that place you as a moderate?

Skoien: You know, I really am tired of the labels. Jim Thompson is a friend of mine. The truth is I went to work for Jim Thompson out of school and it really had very little to do with ideology…he is a tremendous individual, tremendous governor—he and I don’t share the same views on everything, but I was proud to be associated with him…

Berkowitz: And, Jack Ryan, a conservative, is someone that you could support wholeheartedly, right?

Skoien: Absolutely and that is kind of a key point to this whole business of being Chairman. You know, I intend as I always have in my life to support Republicans of almost every stripe... There has to be some basic ideology that you agree on, and that’s kind of the 70% test, but beyond that, I work for Republicans, I have supported Pro-Life Republicans and Pro-Choice Republicans and Republicans of various shades and stripes and I’ll continue to do that.

Berkowitz: Is [President] George Bush too conservative on the issues of gun control, on the issues of abortion, on the issues of gay rights for Illinois?

Skoien: I don’t think he is. I think a lot of the issues that you refer to- a lot of mainstream voters are in agreement with- and again, I go back to the 70% rule. There may be a few things that I don’t even agree with George Bush on, but in general, he is there with us, he is a great President- his character, the values he stands for, I think that is what needs to be sold to the people of Illinois.

Berkowitz: …Maureen Murphy, as you know, is viewed as a social conservative…you generally are viewed as a moderate. You won this election handily. Would you want Maureen Murphy to have a specific role in your organization that you are the Chairman of-- the Cook County GOP?

Skoien: I would love to have Maureen involved…Maureen has a particular expertise that she has been working on, on [preventing] voter fraud and [maintaining] election ballot integrity and I think if she would be willing to take a leadership role there, I would absolutely love that and I think the party would be better off for it.
Interview with Gary Skoien by Jeff Berkowitz, Host and Producer of "Public Affairs," taped on April 14, 2004. You can reach Jeff Berkowitz at